Apple won the first battle of the War for Tablet Computer Supremacy with its iPad obliterating some of its competitors. A few Android tablet PCs — notably Samsung Galaxy Tab and Amazon Kindle Fire — managed to hold their own. Now Microsoft Surface and Google Nexus 7 are entering the fray, and that is only good news for consumers
It is important to classify the current generation of tablet PCs as ‘modern tablet PCs’ or ‘Post-PC tablets’ (as Steve Jobs liked to classify it) because Apple reinvented the idea with the iPad in 2010. Handheld portable tablet PCs had been around for more than a decade and ironically Microsoft was among the first companies to unveil a prototype as early as 2001.
But since its launch in 2010, the iPad has come to define the genre and ended up cornering a substantial share of the market with its competitors making mere dents, or in some cases, such as the HP TouchPad, getting completely obliterated. It bodes well for consumers to have a wide array of choices, which is why recent announcements about Microsoft’s Surface and Google’s Nexus 7 tablets hold out much promise.
Late to the party
Microsoft arrives to the tablet PC arena almost as late as it did to the smartphone arena. (The iPhone was launched in 2007 and the Windows Phone in 2010.)
In a rather hurried and surprise event last month in Los Angeles, it unveiled its Surface tablet as a device running its upcoming Windows 8 operating system. The tablet comes in two iterations: the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. While the lighter RT version will run the Windows 8 in its Metro interface, the Pro version is expected to run the full desktop version of the OS.
The Surface tablets have a 10.6-inch (diagonal) 16:9 full HD screen and will sport among other things a USB port, a microSD card slot and will have internal storage of 32, 64 and 128 GB depending on the iteration.
The tablet PC has managed to wow with its design, something that has not quite been Microsoft’s forte over the years. With its magnesium alloy body, a quirky little kickstand and a cover that combines an inbuilt keyboard, a few renowned technology blogs have even said that the company has bettered Apple in the design game.
But what really matters is how soon Microsoft will deliver the product on a worldwide scale and what its key-differentiators will be, including the pricing. It had highlighted that Surface will not be just a consumption device and will allow people to work the way they do with a laptop. The impending release of Office 2013 (a consumer preview is currently available online) is expected to bolster its chances.
The other big hoop, the company will have to jump through, is pricing. Microsoft has not announced the exact numbers yet, but has said the pricing would be comparable to that of the range of Ultra notebooks. That could make it costlier than the Apple iPad, which will put the product on top of the premium category. There are some unconfirmed reports that the basic Surface RT is being pegged at around $599 (approximately Rs. 33,000).
Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, announced at the Google’s I/O developers’ meet, is already viewed as a game-changer mostly because of what it offers for its $199 (approximately Rs.11,000) pricing. A few technology websites that had the benefit of the preview at the Google event last month have said it could potentially affect Amazon Kindle Fire’s growth in the entry-level tablet PC game.
This is also the tablet PC Indian consumers can look forward to, as Kindle Fire is not really tuned to the Indian market. For the cost-conscious Indian consumer, this could well be the tablet PC to own, since most of the economic tablet PCs flooding the markets here, leave much to be desired in terms of engineering and build quality.
The Nexus 7, running Android’s latest mobile operating system 4.1 (Jelly Bean), has a seven-inch 1280X800 HD display and features a quad-core Tegra3 processor, a micro-USB port, wireless and bluetooth connectivity and 1 GB RAM. It comes in two iterations in terms of internal storage: 8 GB and 16 GB.
The other big advantage for Nexus 7 is its already established Android Apps market that was recently rebranded Google Play. One can expect Nexus 7 to make a substantial buzz in the Indian market when it arrives here.